December 12, 2013 2:35 pm
Benjamin Harrison developed “ptomaine poisoning” during the Civil War. He also had to wear gloves at all times due to contact dermatitis. Herbert Hoover badly burned his foot as a kid by stepping on an iron in his father’s blacksmith shop. James Madison got frostbrite.
President are people, and they struggled with the same illnesses and bad habits as the rest of us. And this one website chronicles them all—the weird bodily ailments of every United States President. The site might not be the prettiest, but it’s got all the information there. From John Adams’s baldness to Herbert Hoover’s problem with performing his handshaking duties. Seriously:
The annual White House reception, in which Hoover had to shake hands with thousands of visitors, was a problem. His hand was at times so swollen that he could not write for days. Once he received a bad cut from a diamond ring that was turned inward; the reception was abruptly halted.
The list also has serious ailments like throat cancer, scarlet fever and sudden death.
You can also sort by organ system, and see just which presidents had trouble with eyes, ears, hair and heart. Surprisingly, while 16 presidents are listed as having problems with alcohol (John Quincy Adams, Martin van Buren, William Harrison, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, William Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush), only two are listed as having liver problems (Zachary Taylor and John Kennedy).
The list is curated by the pseudonymous Doctor Zebra (the Dr. is real, the Zebra is not, he or she writes). The doctor explains why:
Constitutional crises have not occurred with the eight Presidential deaths in our history. Why? Because the Constitution provides for transfer of power to the Vice President, and because death is unambiguous and permanent.
By contrast, only luck has prevented a Constitutional crisis arising from Presidential illness.
Our laws leave most matters of Presidential illness ambiguous. Although the 25th amendment to the Constitution defines what happens after a President is deemed incapacitated by illness, no law defines such illness, or when or how or by whom the medical evaluation for such an illness is performed.
Tour this website, and note the heavy burden of disease that has afflicted our presidents. Recent presidents are no exception. We have been very lucky indeed.
Doctor Zebra has also created pages comparing the risk of mad cow disease to the risk of a heart attack, hinting how to become an cosmonaut, and displaying a periodic table of hellish items.
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December 12, 2013 11:12 am
Russia and the United States have long been trying to one up each other, whether by way of weaponry, space travel or social policies. While Soviet Russia was, by most accounts, a pretty miserable place to live, the Soviets did beat the Americans at one thing: women in science and engineering.
Between 1962 and 1964, 40 percent of the chemistry PhD’s awarded in Soviet Russia went to women. At that same time in the United States, that number was a measly five percent. In 2006, that number was still lower than the Soviets’ from the ’60s—just 35 percent, according to the American Institute of Physics Research Center. In 2012, still only 37 percent of chemistry PhDs in America went to women.
Roshanna Sylvester, a writer at Russian History Blog, has some thoughts as to why Soviet Russia might have succeeded where the United States is currently failing:
Analysis of pedagogical journals suggests that girls’ quest for advancement in the 1960s was aided by the USSR’s standard school curriculum, which privileged the study of math and the hard sciences. There are also hints that girls benefited from generalized efforts by science and math educators to identify and mentor talented students as well as to improve the overall quality of instruction in those fields. As far as influences beyond the school room, sociological studies (particularly those conducted by Shubkin’s group in Novosibirsk) offer support for the notion that parents played key roles in shaping daughters’ aspirations. But those results also suggest that girls’ ideas about occupational prestige both reflected contemporary stereotypes about ‘women’s work’ and offered up challenges to male domination in science and technology fields.
The first woman to go to space was a Russian woman, Valentina Tereshkova, and she inspired Russian girls across the country to aspire to space. Take this letter from a girl from Ukraine to Yuri Gagarin:
I have wanted to ask you for a long time already: ‘is it possible for a simple village girl to fly to the cosmos?’ But I never decided to do it. Now that the first Soviet woman has flown into space, I finally decided to write you a letter….I know [to become a cosmonaut] one needs training and more training, one needs courage and strength of character. And although I haven’t yet trained ‘properly’, I am still confident of my strength. It seems to me that with the kind of preparation that you gave Valia Tereshkova, I would also be able to fly to the cosmos.
Sylvester contrasts that letter with this one, written by a fifteen year old American girl to John Glenn:
Dear Col. Glenn, I want to congratulate you on your successful space flight around the earth. I am proud to live in a nation where such scientific achievements can be attained. I’m sure it takes a great amount of training and courage for you to accomplish such a feat. It was a great honor to witness this historical event. I would very much like to become an astronaut, but since I am a 15 year old girl I guess that would be impossible. So I would like to wish you and all of the other astronauts much success in the future.
So perhaps the United States should take a page from the Soviet book, just this one time.
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December 11, 2013 3:21 pm
Up to 60 percent of Europe’s population was wiped out by the bubonic plague back in the 14th century. Without treatment, the plague, which is spread by bacteria-infected fleas that live on rats and other small rodents, kills two out of three people infected with the disease. Today, the disease is rare, but it has recently flared up again in Madagascar, where living conditions have deteriorated since the political turmoil of 2009.
Each year, around 500 plague cases are reported in Madagascar, but this year has been particularly bad. As in past years, the problem began in prisons, where crowded, dirty conditions promote the spread of disease. The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a warning in October about the plague threat, writing:
In 2012, Madagascar became the most severely affected country in the world, with 256 cases and 60 deaths according to data from the World Health Organization, which is working in partnership with the Malagasy health ministry to implement a national policy for fighting the plague.
“Rat control is essential for preventing the plague, because rodents spread the bacillus to fleas that can then infect humans,” said [ICRC delegate Christopher] Vogt. “So the relatives of a detainee can pick up the disease on a visit to the prison. And a released detainee returning to his community without having been treated can also spread the disease.”
Although efforts to eliminate rats from the prison are underway, the disease seems to be getting worse. Health officials confirmed this week that at least 20 villagers have now died from plague, the Guardian writes, and the fact that the plague is still raging in December–more than a month after its usual infection window–may indicate that infected fleas are on the rise.
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December 11, 2013 2:44 pm
This post and headline have been updated to reflect the following correction: Facebook’s top global destinations are listed in alphabetical order, not in order of their popularity ranking.
With the end of the year approaching, Facebook just released its annual compilation of the year’s most popular destinations—or, at least, those most popular for Facebook users to check in to. CNN reports:
The list includes the top checked in places, excluding transportation hubs, in 25 of the countries with the most active Facebook users in 2013.
Travel is big business for the global social network, which confirmed that travel continues to be the second most talked-about life event on Facebook after relationship updates.
Some of the top world destinations for check-ins are typical, such as Venice’s famous Piazza San Marco and various Disneylands around the world. Others, however are a bit unexpected. (A waterfront neighborhood in Argentina is #1? Do Australians really love cricket that much? What’s going on at that mall in Nigeria?) But they reflect Facebook’s popularity around the world. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t get into any analysis besides simply presenting the results, which follow in alphabetical order:
Argentina: Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
Australia: Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), East Melbourne, Victoria
Brazil: Parque Ibirapuera, São Paulo
Canada: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia
Egypt: Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt
France: Disneyland Paris, Marne La Vallée
Germany: Reeperbahn, Hamburg
Hong Kong: 香港迪士尼樂園 | Hong Kong Disneyland
Iceland: Blue Lagoon, Reykjavík, Iceland
India: Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple)
Italy: Piazza San Marco, Venice
Japan: 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland), Tokyo
Mexico: Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City
Nigeria: Ikeja City Mall, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
Poland: Temat Rzeka, Warsaw
Russia: Центральный парк культуры и отдыха им. Горького | Gorky Park of Culture and Leisure
Singapore: Marina Bay Sands
South Africa: Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
South Korea: Myungdong Street, Seoul
Spain: Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Catalonia
Sweden: Friends Arena, Solna
Taiwan: 花園夜市Tainan Flower Night Market, Tainan City
Turkey: Taksim Square, Istanbul
United Kingdom: The 02, London
United States: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
As for those traveling closer to home (or visiting the U.S.), the top ten posts within the country were a bit less surprising:
1. Disneyland & Disney California Adventure (Anaheim, CA)
2. Times Square (New York, NY)
3. Epcot – Walt Disney World (Lake Buena Vista, FL)
4. Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, CA)
5. AT&T Park (San Francisco, CA)
6. Rangers Ballpark (Arlington, TX)
7. Universal Studios Hollywood (Universal City, CA)
8. Fenway Park (Boston, MA)
9. MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (Las Vegas, NV)
10. Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (Houston, TX)
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December 11, 2013 12:05 pm
What you’re looking at is a video of the Moon, in orbit around the Earth, as seen by a satellite that’s flying 87,000 miles per hour on its way to Jupiter. Science!
Back in October, NASA’s Juno satellite whipped past the Earth, using our planet’s gravitational pull as a slingshot to boost it up to speed for its long journey to the outer solar system. As Juno sailed by, its cameras captured this rare scene, a far-off look at the celestial dance shared by the Earth and the Moon.
This is not the first time we’ve watched from afar as Moon passed by Earth.
Back in 2008, the Deep Impact spacecraft, fresh off its main mission to smash into a comet, turned its camera back towards Earth to capture this, a gorgeous view of the Moon transiting in front of our planet.
Astronomer Phil Plait’s enthusiasm back in 2008 holds just as true for the new look offered by Juno, too.
Take a look at that, folks. It’s us, seen from 50 million kilometers away. I’ve seen many images of the Earth and Moon together as taken by distant spacecraft, but this, seeing them in motion, really brings home — if I may use that highly ironic term — just where we are: a planetary system, an astronomical body, a blue orb hanging in space orbited by a desolate moon. This is a view that is literally impossible from the ground. Only a spacefaring race gets the privilege of this view from a height.
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